Posts Tagged ‘Literacy’
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Gone are the days when you read a text cold, and this is good news for typical and nontypical students. Some students mistakenly think that doing prep work for reading a novel is borderline cheating, as teachers know that real “cheating” would be reading Cliff Notes without reading the assigned text. In college, I realized that reading a text with just my own perspective wasn’t helpful when studying A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. Yes, I tried reading it cold. And my college professor’s lectures made me question if I read the same book. I honestly thought that this “literary great” was just a writer who couldn’t get outside his own thoughts. Only when I sat in the library, surrounded by social histories that accurately placed where James Joyce was writing from, to understanding the physical places where the narrator experienced (nearly subliminally in his thoughts), to varied literary analysis, could I digest any of this influential fiction — or understand the class lectures.
I would expect to come across reading strategies from a college-level English Department, but the Counseling Center at Guerrieri University Center in Salisbury, MD has put a list of seven critical reading strategies (outlined below). Some of the suggested list works for teachers preparing younger children for reading assignments to college-level students:
1. Previewing: Learning about a text before really reading it.
The Center suggests previewing as skimming the instructional formatted material: nicely organized with titles, headers, any pull quotes and pictures with captions. This provides “an overview of the content and organization,” and the structure not only helps absorbing the subject content – it can help to frame note taking, which can be used for study later on.
2. Contextualizing: Placing a text in its historical, biographical, and cultural contexts.
Readers response theory is the first step to a student understanding reading material – where a student makes personal connections to the text. But readers do need to go beyond the lens of their own experiences. To do this, readers need to understand that some “texts you read were all written in the past, sometimes in a radically different time and place. To read critically, you need to contextualize, to recognize the differences between your contemporary values and attitudes and those represented in the text.” For example, in an affluent classroom of mostly Caucasian high school students who are reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley, many of the student won’t be able to bridge their experiences to the text (although it is a good starting place). They need to understand the text’s context, and teachers can provide its historical, biographical, and cultural contexts or assign research groups to provide the text’s context.
3. Questioning to understand and remember: Asking questions about the content.
The Center suggests that teacher questions that guide literature does often work, but students should consider writing their own questions as they read. You can have younger children journal their “as I read” questions, pinpointing not only comprehension issues but also higher-level thinking questions. And when they discover an answer to one of their own questions, it provides a student-centered learning and, for older students, a potential working thesis for essay writing.
The Center adds, “With this strategy, you can write questions any time, but in difficult academic readings, you will understand the material better and remember it longer if you write a question for every paragraph or brief section. Each question should focus on a main idea, not on illustrations or details, and each should be expressed in your own words, not just copied from parts of the paragraph.” Great advice.
4. Reflecting on challenges to your beliefs and values: Examining your personal responses.
This part may be more difficult for younger students to address, but even middle school students can use some help in identifying their own beliefs and values – compared to what a text is suggesting. Not an opportunity for indoctrination of any divergent viewpoints, it can help clarify one’s own beliefs and help frame argumentative essays.
The Center suggests marking the text with Xs “where you feel a personal challenge to your attitudes, beliefs, or status. Make a brief note in the margin about what you feel or about what in the text created the challenge. Now look again at the places you marked in the text where you felt personally challenged. What patterns do you see?” What a great way to visually note challenges and places where one can counter arguments.
5. Outlining and summarizing: Identifying the main ideas and restating them in your own words.
“Whereas outlining reveals the basic structure of the text, summarizing synopsizes a selection’s main argument in brief.” The Center adds, “When you make an outline, don’t use the text’s exact words” and summarize using your own words because it “requires creative synthesis.” This is tricky for younger students, and I would suggest outlining text using the text’s clues (headers, titles, sometimes italicized words) and allowing them to copy provided text. The bottom line is “being able to distinguish between the main ideas and the supporting ideas and examples…Putting ideas together again — in your own words and in a condensed form — shows how reading critically can lead to deeper understanding of any text.”
6. Evaluating an argument: Testing the logic of a text as well as its credibility and emotional impact.
I personally feel that this is the single most overlooked aspect of reading: critical thinking. I try to have my students understand that just because a text says this is so, doesn’t mean that it is an absolute truth. We want a nation of readers who are open-minded enough to evaluate arguments and decide where they stand for themselves. A text’s credibility is most important – what is the source, who wrote it, is this person affiliated with a group or ideology, and how strong is the writer’s other written work?
The Center writes:
All writers make assertions that they want you to accept as true. As a critical reader, you should not accept anything on face value but to recognize every assertion as an argument that must be carefully evaluated. An argument has two essential parts: a claim and support. The claim asserts a conclusion — an idea, an opinion, a judgment, or a point of view — that the writer wants you to accept. The support includes reasons (shared beliefs, assumptions, and values) and evidence (facts, examples, statistics, and authorities) that give readers the basis for accepting the conclusion. When you assess an argument, you are concerned with the process of reasoning as well as its truthfulness (these are not the same thing). At the most basic level, in order for an argument to be acceptable, the support must be appropriate to the claim and the statements must be consistent with one another.
I feel that they are driving home a good point: reasons are shared beliefs, assumptions, and values; evidence is facts, examples, statistics, and authorities. Understanding an authors reasons and evidence are critical, as is understanding one’s own.
7. Comparing and contrasting related readings: Exploring likenesses and differences between texts to understand them better.
The Center writes: “Many of the authors we read are concerned with the same issues or questions, but approach how to discuss them in different ways.” This part is about understanding the big picture. You can understand a subject more deeply by considering different points of view on the subject, and you become an expert. What comes to mind is asking older students to write a pro-argument essay, and then follow up with a con-argument essay. Yes, I can hear the students groan, but I think that defending both sides of an issue means that the student better understands a particular subject matter than most, and, more importantly, understands and can defend his or her own viewpoint.
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It may never occur to you that as your child reads, that he may also be picking up some bad reading habits. What could be bad about reading? I thought any attempt to read was good effort. It turns out that there are bad reading habits that can negatively impact reading. According to The University of Alabama’s Center for Academic Success, there are five bad reading habits that slow down reading speed, and they also offer some strategies to overcoming them.
1. Silent Voicing
Have you seen your child moving her lips as she silently reads? That can slow her down to reading “about 150 words per minute,” which is equivalent to fast-paced speech. An average elementary school child can read about 200 words per minute (wpm) while an adult can read about 200 – 250 wpm. The Center suggests “Put your fingers on your lips to stop the motion.” When you catch your child doing this, you can show her that she is using his lips to read, and doesn’t have to.
Vocalizing, or using your voice box in the throat – with no sounds also slows you down. They suggest checking for vocalizing by “rest your fingertips lightly against the vocal cord area of your throat. If you feel a vibration, or if you find that your tongue is moving, you are vocalizing.” As an adult, and a pretty quick reader I might add, I was shocked to realize that I do this too!
3. Reading everything at the same speed
The Center also suggests that you should tailor your reading speed to “your purpose for reading and the difficulty level of the material,” a difficult concept to pass down to young readers. The Center maintains, “The more difficult the material, the slower the rate,” and that to me means, it is okay to cut yourself some slack when reading a technical article versus lighter type materials.
4. Regressing (rereading a word, phrase, or sentence) out of habit
Readers can fall into a trap of rereading text, not out of need to comprehend, but because it has become a habit. How can you break out of this? The Center offers a simple visual technique: “Use a card or paper to cover the text after you read it to prevent regressing.” This is great for reading text-heavy books, and also helps youngsters who feel overwhelmed with how much more text on that page that they have to cover.
5. Reading one word at a time
The Center says that “slow readers tend to see only one word at a time,” whereas stronger readers “see several words at a time and their eyes will stop only three or four times as they move across a page.” They recommend: “reading in idea-phrases speeds your reading and improves your understanding of what you have read.” And doing this can be as simple as “Mark the phrases in the sentences of a passage, then practice seeing more than one word at a time.” This seems to be a task best done with more experienced readers.
A great way to model reading speed — and help you to target some poor reading habits that will slow young readers down — to is to read with your children and follow along with Big Universe read-alouds. Let us know which reading habits that you have uncovered.
Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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What do the subjects Math and English have in common? Not much? How about Venn Diagrams? John Venn, an English mathematician and logician, invented the Venn diagram in 1880, and although used often in illustrating mathematical concepts, the Venn diagram can be used in literacy lessons to help kids brainstorm and organize ideas.
First, let’s clear up the misconception that the terms compare and contrast are analogous (one and the same) words. Compare, in its strictest sense, means to focus on similarities. (Think of competitive parents who use their children to top the other’s child in a given category.) Compare is often mistakenly related to contrast. Contrast, clearly, means to focus on what makes it different. (So your child competed, my child won.)
Venn Diagrams can be used in the classroom as a visual organizational tool to illustrate the similarities and differences between two objects, characters, or groups in literature – or even topics raised during classroom discussions. Basically two intersecting circles, the left circle can be used to list traits of A, and the right circle can list traits of B. The circle sections that overlap, or are shared, become what they share in common. A handy way of reinforcing this for young children is coloring one complete circle in yellow pencil or crayon and coloring the other in red. Then the orange (more or less) center stands out.
After a Venn diagram is completed, a student has a ready-to-use outline for a compare and contrast discussion, using the diagram as a study tool or, for older students, begin writing a comparison (how they are alike) and contrast (how they are different) essay.
There are some great Venn Diagrams that ready-to-use, just print, copy and hand out to your students from educationaloasis.com, enchantedlearning.com and eduplace.com. Or you can create your own labeled diagram here or in Microsoft Word. And check out some sample lessons using Venn diagrams.
Do your students like to watch cartoons or animated movies?
Do they like to read comic books?
Have you student tried reading a graphic novel?
(There is a whole category full of graphic novels in Big Universe Learning)
Do you have students who like to draw?
Do you have students who doodle on papers, desks, books ….?
Using those interests may be a way to engage those students in learning!
Even the reluctant readers …
Even the struggling readers ….
There are so many visual clues t,hat can be used to help determine the words and the story …
I heard a teacher talking the other day about something interesting that was happening in her classroom.
She is a fan of Wonder Woman comics and her students know that.
Whenever students have time, either at school or not, many of them find ways to find things related to Wonder Woman or other comic strips they enjoy. The teacher was even showing comics students had created in their own time.
In these comics, we found fully-developed characters, settings, and plot lines.
And these creations were not from the students in her class who always exceeded …
By using different forms of expression, students were using various parts of the brain to really demonstrate what they had learned …. and many times without even realizing it!
By taking the time to create the comic images and add details, students were able to really focus on the story they were trying to tell …
Many found drawing a picture while thinking about or planning a story, writing a story became an easier mountain to climb …
As a parent of a reluctant reader with an Individualized Education Program (IEP), I am always looking for ways to motivate my little guy to read. And if I can encourage him in a practical, fun, or silly way, I am going to try it. Last night we sang, instead of reading, a nonfiction book about mountains. I can’t take credit for this — my son started it. So I topped him with my worst Opera voice. After laughing so hard that our stomachs ached, we were finally able to get back to the book, although the giggles hit as we turned each page.
Ann Logsdon, a school psychologist who helps parents and teachers with special needs students, writes that children with learning disabilities often avoid reading and, as a result, don’t get additional opportunities to increase their reading skills and comprehension. She does suggest five practical ways to motivate your struggling reader at home in Top 5 Ways to Motivate Your Child to Read: Encourage Reluctant Readers with These Easy Strategies:
- Try a Variety of Reading Materials – Pair Books with Unabridged Audio Books
By simultaneously using a hard copy book and audio-book, you can follow along. Listening to audio before hands-on reading helps readers understand main ideas before beginning reading. And turning the audio on after reading serves as a “self-check” for comprehension. Another source for audio-books is Big Universe’s Read Aloud books.
- Watch More Television
What a great idea to increase sight word recognition by viewing closed captions on tv or DVDs! That’s one way to turn screen time into a relevant reading exposure. For example, my son is now excited that he can recognize some words on the big screen and is trying to read commercial and programming text on the TV.
- Create Their Own Books on Tape
Ann suggests children can read a book into a tape recorder – and when playing it back, even silently follow along with the book. She recommends, “Some research has indicated that as your child listens to himself and hears his own reading becoming better, his skills will likely improve. Reward your child for the errors he finds and corrects as well as for his successes.”
- Have a Family Reading Night
By dedicating thirty minutes per night, everyone can read from the same book or different ones. If you are a competitive family, you could even track number of minutes reading and reward the winner who reads the most with a special meal or choice of favorite family activity.
- Adapt Reading Materials to Your Child’s Reading Level
In the classroom, it is possible to attain textbooks on tape and CD ROM versions of textbooks, although you need to work with the IEP team in order to make this possible. Another way to reduce reading frustration is to identify unfamiliar vocabulary before reading and help him or her understand the meaning. Also modeling pronunciation is great for those who have articulation issues, and creating new sentences increases contextual understanding. When it comes to reading literature, there may be lower-level reading versions that will help your child to comprehend the fiction better, in order to keep up with classmates and reading assignments. And another great fall-back plan on is simply sharing the reading, especially when the reading becomes cumbersome and frustrating.
Let us know if you use any of these strategies and how your reluctant reader responded. And try singing a book to each other. At the least, you’ll share a silly moment. But you’ll know that you made reading fun.
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Tonya Wright from Literacy Connections writes about young preschoolers who aren’t yet able to write – but can journal. She suggests that journaling can be used as a starting point for literacy. By taking away the constraints of spelling rules, lined paper, writing with pencil while seated at a desk or table…and giving the children freedom to create, will make writing an enjoyable activity instead of a difficult task.
Journaling isn’t just for preschoolers though. It can be made appropriate for any child, at any age. First get the students excited about journaling by having them create their own journal book. The book can be make from simple construction paper to more elaborate types of handmade books. Although Wright suggests avoiding lined paper for the very young, an already bound composition-type book with space to draw pictures would also work. (Just because there are lines doesn’t mean that we have to use them.) An easy how-to from the Kansas Public Library is here.
Permission to use granted by the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library
Dollar store priced black and white composition books can also be used – and it is pretty easy to alter by making a cover or adding pictures, stickers and drawings, as my son’s teacher Jay Sarath encourages his third-grade students:
For parents, there are so many journals available in stores or online, journaling has lost it’s negative “girlie” diary connotations with the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and other deconstructive type journals such as Wreck this Journal. Having a place to record ideas, thoughts, and feelings is another way to encourage spontaneous literacy.
Making Room to Write
Where students write is important too – in the reading corner or at the craft station, wherever they feel comfortable will inspire them. And that also means, use any available medium – from markers to crayons. Don’t forget to date journal entries – as it is a great way for teachers, parents and child to see progress!
Writing Without Rules
Allowing the children to spell inventively and phonetically is an important part of the writing process. As any “real-life” author will admit, during the idea-generating step, writers don’t pay attention to grammar, punctuation or even complete sentences. We should allow students this step also. So parents and teachers stay hands-off – no correcting allowed. If a child asks to dictate to you, oblige, following their instructions (even if you disagree). Allow the children to use pictures, if they choose to avoid using words, to communicate.
For older students, they can use their journal as a starting point to their own story-telling or creative writing. The can choose one entry and add details, dialogue, and action – and the often-cited hardest part of writing: thinking of an idea becomes the easiest part.
“Publishing” Journals Creates an Audience
The final step to the writing process is a form of “publishing,” and even young journal writers can benefit from an audience for their journals. This can be anything from a group sharing to inviting parents and guardians to a class reading.
If you are a parent of a struggling reader, you will see determination lead to tears. Helping you child read one word, when the next one stumps him just as much as the first, is an exercise in patience and endurance. You find that helping read the words won’t help him learn the skill to read. As a mom who could once make things better with encouragement, there is no bandage for children who are frustrated with reading. They know that they are not on grade level reading. They see their friends take home chapter books, and they are still reading short books. They hear their peers read aloud and know that they themselves hesitate, correct, and struggle much more than playmates at recess.
Frustrated with my son’s own frustration, I called a clinic meeting with his teachers to explain that what once was a good time to cuddle and read is now a battlefield, ending in tears. We came up with plan to use easier-to-read books that resemble chapter books, so he feels like he is progressing faster than he is. We also figured out how to reinforce his strengths and give his lots of praise and opportunities for the things that he does well: anything with numbers. Yet, with these steps, his is reluctant to attend school and has cried that he doesn’t want to go because of reading. He is too young to be asking to stay home, pretending that he is sick and counting down the days until weekend or vacation. According to an article by Imagine This!, struggling readers often can be characterized by “might start acting out in class or responding with negative feedback. They often use self-defeating phrases.” I see that we are there – and this list of pointers to “turning their negative thoughts into positive ones” is going to come in handy.
Imagine This! provides ten ways to increase your struggling reader’s self-esteem:
- Explain that how well she reads has nothing to do with her intelligence. Every person is unique and has to learn in the way that is best for them.
- Encourage him by setting realistic goals that allow for many small successes.
- Chart her progress so that she can see improvement.
- Help him find reading materials at his reading level that are interesting to him.
- Help her break up assignments into smaller, more manageable parts.
- Provide goal-based praise rather than person-oriented praise, such as, “You did a great job sounding out those words” rather than, “I’m proud of you.” This will help him focus on the task he accomplished well.
- Show patience. How you react to her reading difficulties will set the tone of the experience. Your patience will help her learn patience with herself and will help her feel safe as she practices reading.
- Give frequent praise. Learning to read is difficult and can easily turn into a stressful experience. Your praise will help create a positive reading experience.
- Help her focus on the positive. Have her list 10 things she likes about herself, including things she can do well.
- Tailor instruction to his learning style. Some students are visual learners, some are auditory learners, and some are hands-on learners. By teaching with a variety of learning styles, you provide opportunities for him to succeed in his area of learning.
The more confident I am in his abilities, makes him more confident in himself. We’re getting there.
Teaching literature can be so much than at-home reading assignments, pop quizzes testing reading comprehension and follow up discussion. In “Help for Struggling Readers: Making Reading Exciting” by Imagine Learning, Inc suggests some hands-on ways to make reading exciting – from using interactive media to eating the foods that are described in stories and acting out or drawing scenes. This reminds me of Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, where there are seven distinct multiple intelligences (MI). Different from a student’s IQ score, a student’s MI is closer to an innate talent, and tapping into it allows students to learn by doing, as the generally accepted breakdown of learning is, students learn:
10% of what they read
20% of what they hear
30% of what they see
50% of what they hear and see
70 % of what they say as they talk
80-90% of what they hear, see and do
Although there is criticism of the MI theory (lack of data), there is no arguing that creating lessons that involve the modalities creates a dynamic, hands-on approach to learning – tailored to students’ diverse learning styles. In “The Distance Learning Technology Resource Guide,” by Carla Lane suggests that using media and multimedia in the classroom lends itself to Gardner’s MI.
Below is excerpted the hands-on ways that teachers can address different learning styles, according to Garner’s MI
These students think conceptually, abstractly and are able to see and explore patterns and relationships.
Ex: experiment, solve puzzles, ask cosmic questions
Tools: logic games, investigations, mysteries
These students draw, do jigsaw puzzles, read maps, daydream.
Ex: drawings, verbal and physical imagery
Tools: models, graphics, charts, photographs, drawings, 3-D modeling, video, videoconferencing, television, multimedia, texts with pictures/charts/graphs
reading, writing, telling
These students like reading, playing word games, making up poetry or stories.
Ex: encourage them to say and see words, read books together
Tools: computers, games, multimedia, books, tape recorders, and lecture
muscular movement: acting to dancing to building
They like movement, making things, touching.
Ex: physical activity, hands-on learning, acting out, role playing
Tools: equipment and real objects.
They may study better with music in the background.
Ex: turn lessons into lyrics, speaking rhythmically, tapping out time
Tools: musical instruments, music, radio, stereo, CD-ROM, multimedia
discussions to debate
These students learn through interaction and have many friends, empathy for others, street smarts.
Ex: They can be taught through group activities, seminars, dialogues.
Tools: the telephone, audio conferencing, time and attention from the instructor, video conferencing, writing, computer conferencing, E-mail
Ex: They can be taught through independent study and introspection.
Tools: books, creative materials, diaries, privacy and time.
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Growing up, I couldn’t understand why my parents couldn’t figure out how to use the VHS or record a message on an answering machine. I always thought of myself as being tech savvy,…until I had children. Now, when I have a problem with my smart phone, I ask my son for help. Sometimes when he talks to me about his games and apps, I have to ask him to translate what he is saying into something I can wrap my head around.
The digital generation, our children, seem to be wired to understand every electronic gadget. As parents, we have the challenge and responsibility to stay ahead of the learning curve, to be aware of what our children are doing electronically, and even sneak in some learning time. I have just discovered some literacy apps, and they can help you to help your child in reading comprehension.
Reading Rockets, a national multimedia literacy initiative, put together slide presentation of the “Top 12 Comprehension Apps,” and they explain these apps cover “specific comprehension skills, including sequencing, differentiating between fact and opinion, developing word awareness (through antonyms, synonyms, and homophones), as well as several mind mapping apps.”
From free to under $10.00, they list the apps’ appropriate grade level, which skills are reinforced, and device (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch) compatibility:
- Aesop’s Quest
- MiniMod Fact or Opinion Lite
- MiniMod Reading For Details Lite
- The Opposites
- Opposite Ocean
- Professor Garfield Fact or Opinion
- Question Builder
- Same Meaning Magic
- Same Sound Spellbound
- Speech with Milo: Sequencing
Need more? From print awareness to phonics, even vocabulary to spelling and writing, dare your children to try out suggested additional apps and reward them with free choice screen time afterwards. Let us know which ones make both parent and child happy.
Image courtesy of Tina Phillips at FreeDigitalPhotos.net